Photo Walking at the Watershed

365 Photos: Top 10 Things I Learned

I’m just coming to the end of the 365 Project that I started July, 2015. One photo a day for a year! I started with no real expectation that I’d finish, but here I am, nearly a year later with the finish line in sight.

I learned quite a lot along the way: about photography, about myself, about where I live. Here are the Top 10 Things that I Learned.

Photo Walking at the Watershed
This photo was taken specifically for a photo challenge “From Afar: People”. It made the finals. The weather was foggy and rainy, but I went out anyway grabbing the most colorful umbrella that I owned. I used the delay feature on my camera to capture me walking along the boardwalk at a local nature reserve.
Sony DSC-HX90v 4.1 mm 1/25@f7.1 ISO100.

#1 Photo Opportunities are Everywhere

Once I started looking for photo opportunities, I found them – everywhere – walking down the street, driving home from work, even in my own home. Because I woke up knowing I’d need to find a photo, I was on the lookout. Composing photos in my mind’s eye became a habit. I began really looking at the world around me.

#2 Very Few Photos are Found Sitting on the Sofa

Because I’m in essence a travel photographer, I became a tourist in my own back yard. I drove down random roads and got a hold of tourist publications. I found out more about the area that I live in one year than I had in the previous twenty. But I had to get up off of my sofa, away from my computer and go get the photos – they weren’t coming to me.

#3 Not Every Photo has to be Epic

I took a lot of good photographs over the last year – but I also took some very average ones.  But these weren’t failures. I was still learning about my camera, photography, and my world. Sometimes I only had time for a quick pic on the way to my car, but I still stopped – however briefly – and captured the moment. Even if it was an average moment – life’s full of them.

Photo Texture and Color
Finding texture and color on the side of a building.

#4 Learn New Techniques Only When Ready

I learned many photographic techniques this last year, but I learned them when I was ready – not all at once. When I wanted to make photos with blurry backgrounds, I figured out DoF, when I was ready to tackle night shots, I figured out long exposure. There was no hurry – I had 365 days. So much information is available online that it can be overwhelming.

#5 Look at the Work of Others

I wouldn’t have known about shallow field had I not seen other photographers using this technique and I would have never discovered minimalism, street photography or macro. Photos that attracted me became inspirational. I’d practice the technique or perspective or post-processing style. Some were not for me, but I embraced others and became a better photographer.

#6 Be Social

I’m not an overly social person, but the online photographic community is huge and generally very supportive. I initially underestimated the importance of sharing my work with others, but art is for people. If even one person liked (faved) the photo, I’d given someone pleasure – even if just for a moment. That got me through some down days.

#7 …But Not Too Social

I like the local photography club meet-ups and photo walks, but photography as a creative endeavor needs concentration. I often photograph alone or peel off from the group for a time. My husband sometimes accompanies me, but he always brings a book. He likes my photos, but it’s boring to watch me photograph rusty door handles for 20 minutes.

Photo Well-Used Lock
I love doors. I love textures. I love colors. Score! This well-used lock on a door in downtown Alton, Illinois has all my favorite elements.

#8 Make Own Rules

It’s a 365 Project – one photo a day for a year. But it was MY project – I could make any rules I wanted. I could set a theme for the week, revisit photos that I’d initially rejected, I could even have said that I’d post only 3 photos a week. Some people post photos exclusively of their children – or cats. One of the people I follow on 365 captured only orange photos for a month. The Project is flexible.

#9 Find Niche

In photography, there’s a niche for everyone. Like to photograph rust? No problem! There are groups of photographers who like rust, too. Don’t worry about being commercial or photographing what’s popular. If I liked to photograph something, chances were others liked to photograph it, too. But to find my niche, I had to try many different types of photography.

#10 Artistic Photography is Seeing the World Differently

The trick to making an epic photo is to see something that no one else sees; find the extraordinary in the ordinary. This is the difference between snapshots and photographs. This is why some of my best photographs are taken within 10 miles of my home. This is why 365 doesn’t seem like a lot of photographs.

Photo Simple Barn
Simple red barn on a field of green under a bright blue sky. This is a simple farm scene in bright colors.

I’m not sure where I’ll go with photography when I finish my 365 Project – maybe I’ll do a 730 Project – or not. But this year has taught me to see the world differently and that will stay with me the rest of my life.

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